Baghdad launches military campaign to counter ISIS resurgence

Mustafa al-Kadhimi vowed to root out ISIS from Iraq once and for all.
Monday 18/05/2020
Desert Lions. A file picture of Iraq’s rapid response forces in action north of Baghdad tracking ISIS suspects in July 2019. (Reuters)
Desert Lions. A file picture of Iraq’s rapid response forces in action north of Baghdad tracking ISIS suspects in July 2019. (Reuters)

AL-ANBAR (Iraq) –The Iraqi army has launched a military operation to track down ISIS elements in the desert areas between the provinces of Anbar, Nineveh and Saladin, all the way to the western Iraqi-Syrian border.

The media office of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command announced Sunday the launch of the military campaign dubbed Desert Lions Operation in an area spanning the north of Anbar governorate, the south of Nineveh governorate and the west of Saladin governorate.

The statement said that operations will include the participation of the Al-Jazeera, Saladin and West Nineveh commands, the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) and the Tribal Forces, on eleven axes and with the support of the Air Force.

According to the statement, the purpose of the campaign is to enhance security and stability in these areas, track down terrorist elements and arrest those wanted for crimes.

Iraqi Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces Mustafa al-Kadhimi said Saturday that the Iraqi armed forces were about to root out ISIS from Iraq once and for all.

The operation was launched after members of the security forces, the PMF and two civilians were killed in separate attacks suspected to have been carried out by ISIS in several Iraqi provinces, including Diyala, since Friday.

Burhan al-Maamouri, a representative of Diyala governorate, wrote on Twitter that Diyala was in “imminent danger” because of resurgent ISIS activity in the area.

“Pure blood is being shed in the Diyala Governorate amid a total disregard for the threat of ISIS, which we have repeatedly warned about,” he wrote, urging for the government to move “quickly to fill the military vacuum in the province.”

In recent months, there has been a spike in attacks by armed elements thought to belong to ISIS, particularly in the area between Kirkuk, Saladin (to the north) and Diyala (to the east), known as the “Triangle of Death.”

In 2017, Iraq declared victory over ISIS and reclaimed all of the territory held by the terror group, which was estimated at about a third of the country’s area.

However, the terrorist organisation still maintains sleeper cells in large areas throughout the country, and at times launches attacks in several governorates in an attempt to renew its foundations in the country.

The war on ISIS ended with the collapse of its territorial bases in both Syria and Iraq and the liquidation of its senior leaders. However, the organisation has recently shown signs of resurgence, intensifying its activities and operations in a number of areas in northern and western Iraq, prompting the Iraqi armed forces to spring to action against it.